Easter, hope and light

Easter, hope and light

In some ways, now is a terrible time to be a Catholic.

I involuntarily wince every time another Catholic scandal — another revelation of sin and evil in the Church — hits the headlines.

It hurts me, because I’m embarrassed. But it hurts me more because I love Jesus Christ. And I can only imagine that these scandals — from the lapses to the outrages — hurt him very much.

Our Lord founded the Church — by that I mean, he commissioned us, his disciples down the ages — to proclaim the Good News. To attract people to him.

Sometimes I think we’re not doing a very job of it. When I read those shameful headlines, I often think of Mahatma Gandhi’s words:

“I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”

We all know people who are so disheartened by the Church’s dysfunction, that they are leaving. But then there are also people who — despite everything! — are coming into the Catholic Church.

Four young men — ranging in age from 12 to 28 — became Catholic during Hamilton’s Easter Vigil last night. They are accompanied by more than a million others, all over the world, who are receiving the sacraments this Easter.

So in other ways, now is a wonderful time to be a Catholic! Jesus Christ is risen! Light has overcome darkness. Life has vanquished death.

If the headlines I mentioned evoke the betrayal of Holy Thursday and the darkness of Good Friday, then the reception of our new Catholics evokes the dazzling light of Easter Sunday.

A new dawn. New life.

It’s no coincidence, of course, that the Church celebrates so many baptisms at Easter. The two are closely related. As Archbishop Coleridge so memorably puts it, “Baptism is Easter with your name on it.”

(If you’ve got six minutes, watch his Easter message.)

Given this link between Easter and baptism, and the phenomenon of so many adults coming into the Catholic Church at Easter, it’s a good time for all of us to ask, “Why am I a Catholic?”

The bloggers at Patheos’ Catholic channel have answered just that. There are as many answers as there are posts! That speaks to the catholicity of Catholicism I think.

Our faith is sometimes painted as narrow and authoritarian. Sometimes, we’re even tempted to view the faith that way ourselves. But we should reject that!

In the words of James Joyce, “Catholic means, ‘here comes everybody.’” Our faith is too big for any one person to get a handle on it. The Catholic faith is as large as the heart and mind of God, which is eternal.

When we live the Catholic faith sincerely, when we “become like Christ,” as Gandhi put it, then our own hearts and minds are enlarged, so that we can bring to others the hope and the light that Easter brings to us.

8 Comments

  1. Jenny Altmann
    Mar 31, 2013

    Every time I hear of another scandal within the church being sensationalised by the media, my heart breaks a little for all the wonderful people within the church who carry the pain of the perpetrators of evil. I have a theory…So complex…Society is sick and the scandal of sexual abuse is undermining the Family unit.
    People are afraid to uncover, reveal and report abbhorrent crimes committed within supposedly respectable families…Way too shameful…much easier to project frustration and despair at the Catholic Church who are honest and willing to [ now] take responsibility and be held accountable. As a survivor of abuse, who has been lucky enough to heal, with the help of some very caring, compassionate and concerned priests, nuns and Christian Brothers, I feel I have a right to speak my mind. I cannot report my Mum, who did not protect me..With the help of my faith, I have found the strength to forgive. I love my Mum and we now have an O.K. relationship. Disclosing this abuse would have torn my family apart and wounded so many people. As I said the issue is complex..Would just like the good people within the church to go easy on themselves. The problem is manifestly rife throughout all of society. It is good that there are enquiries etc and the silence is being broken. It breaks my heart that so many trustworthy people are carrying the pain of the inherent evil within a sick society. Keep the Faith…eventually all will be well. I have so much respect for your courage in speaking out about these scandals and hope that this first effort at speaking my truth might help you in some small way!!
    With Pope Francis at the helm I am truly hopeful..Confident even, that our church will be rebuilt!!

    • Fr John
      Apr 10, 2013

      Wise words Jenny.

  2. Joel
    Apr 4, 2013

    I watched this the other night. Was excellent. The bishop showed more polish than in his Lenten message as well.

    I went to have another look, and it seems to have been restricted. A “private” video it says. On YouTube. That’s an oxymoron if ever there was.

    • Fr John
      Apr 10, 2013

      No idea why it was marked private for several days. Back online now though.

  3. Simon Hogan
    Apr 4, 2013

    Hello Happy Easter to all of you!
    Holy Thursday is also called ordination of priest. Does anyone know any priest who got ordinate last week? We must not to forget to pray for the priest who keep the churches going in this great country of ours. Here is prayer
    Jesus our sheperd, Christ our high Priest, you taught us that o be greatin this world is to be a servant.
    Lord call priests to your church who do not wish to be served, but to serve.
    Provide for your church, Lord priests of mercy and healing.
    May they be alert to the wonders of the universe, sensitive to the sufferings of the world and servants of the banquet of your Body and Blood.
    Lord Jesus call forth priests for us who will nurture the call of all disciples to follow you with love and gladness toward the kingdom that you promised where you intercede for us still,
    Priest and Lord , for ever and ever. Amen.

    • Fr John
      Apr 10, 2013

      Happy Easter Simon the Pieman!

      You are right that Holy Thursday is associated with the institution of the priesthood, as well as the institution of the Holy Eucharist, which is so closely related to the ministerial priesthood.

      All over the world, priests gather around their bishop on Holy Thursday morning, renew the promises they made at their ordination, and concelebrate the Chrism Mass. (Due to large travelling times, the Chrism Mass in our diocese is celebrated on the Monday evening of Holy Week, but still the Mass is related to the institution of the priesthood.)

      Then on Holy Thursday evening, priests return to their parishes and celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, which is focused on the Holy Eucharist.

      However, I don’t think you will ever find an ordination occurring on this day. From what I understand, ritual Masses are prohibited in Holy Week, and a priest can only be ordained at a ritual Mass. This is also why you’ll never see a funeral Mass in Holy Week. Some Catholics are buried in Holy Week, but their funeral service is not a Mass. Many Catholics delay the funeral for a week, so that they can celebrate a funeral Mass.

  4. After Epiphany
    Apr 6, 2013

    Hi Fr. John! We are SO BLESSED to have good leaders during this difficult time in the Church. Bishop Anthony Fisher OP (my local ordinary) has also released an Easter message via YouTube and I’ve linked that from my site, along with this one by Archbishop Coleridge. I was troubled by a most unfair characterization in the news from the first or the second day (can’t remember) of the Commission last week. It portrayed our bishops as arrogant, lacking compassion and not at all interested in truly helping victims of the scandal. I am pleased to see positive messages like this one of Archbishop Coleridge being propagated. There truly is no darkness so great that Christ cannot bring to it Light in abundance.

    Finally -its a while since I’d seen that Ghandi quote – its very telling, really. We need not to work harder but to trust more, to cooperate with the promptings of grace in our lives. Our Christianity is SUPPOSED to be making us more like Christ, such that we can bring Him to others. I pray that the disjunct between Christ and His followers that was evident in Ghandi’s day begins to disappear. This is crucial to the New Evangelization!

    I hope you’re enjoying the Easter Season, Father!

    • Fr John
      Apr 10, 2013

      Thanks AE. Nice blog. Might have to update my blogroll.

      I know what you mean re the negative portrayal of our bishops, but I would add that for too long the bishops’ responses were inadequate. I think it will take a while for people’s perceptions — and indeed, the media’s portrayals — to change, but I’m sure it will happen.

      I noticed, for example, a few Q&A tweets which expressed surprise and even appreciation for Archbishop Coleridge’s remarks about the clergy abuse scandal. I hope we see more and more of the sort of responses shown by +Coleridge, +Fisher, and +Kennedy of Armidale, not to mention +Gomez of Los Angeles.